Odder, still and odder. Group company secretary Takeshi Ito said he was uncertain exactly what assets were left in the joint venture, which the company entered into in September 2007.
Properties in Sichuan Province were untouched and there was still "quite a bit left in Guandong" province, despite the asset sale spree over the last 10 days by Cheung Ping Kwong – until last November chief executive of the company at the heart of the joint venture’s commercial operations.
Cheung made unauthorized sales of properties in Hainan and Guangdong provinces last week, representing $47.8 million, of which $16.3 million allegedly belongs to Millennium and Copthorne, a 34% participant in the joint venture in China.
He went on to sell a further $2.5 million of properties, comprising an 85% interest in the Kangxie portfolio of two parcels of development land in Guangdong, and a 70% interest in a landscaping and associated nursery business.
However, for Millenium and Copthorne the joint venture represents a relatively small proportion of the $611 million total assets recorded on the balance sheet of the NZX-listed New Zealand hotel group.
Ito said Chinese authorities had acted swiftly to cancel and reissue the seals of the companies at the center of the sales of properties, and other assets in Hainan and Guangdong provinces, but there was no clarity at this stage as to the progress of criminal investigations. The move may not have been fast enough.
Cheung sold the first tranche of assets late last week, and the second, smaller tranche on Tuesday, the day between the official cancellation of the old company seals and public notification of this in a major Chinese newspaper.
Stuff.co.nz reported that Takeshi Ito said, "At the moment, I don’t have the answer to that question and we are asking that question ourselves. A detailed understanding of the situation would require an assessment on the ground in China."